|By Ben Standig, Saturday, September 7, 2013|
QB Joe Flacco - Quality Backup
Keep arguing if you want about whether the Ravens' quarterback is elite, though it seems like Flacco's Super Bowl win and career playoff record largely ended that debate. As for those who imagine him as fantasy gold now that Baltimore's No. 5 hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, get ready for some pushback. Whatever happens to flip the switch with Flacco's stat line in the postseason does not exist consistently during Weeks 1-17. He's certainly viable and even potent depending on the matchup (Flacco threw for a career-high 3,817 yards) including five 300-yard games with 22 touchdowns). Of course, he also tossed for less than 200 yards six times and has still never thrown for more than 25 touchdowns in a single season. Factor in no obvious replacement for Anquan Boldin and it is hard imagining anything different overall for Flacco in 2013. That's not a bad thing as long as he's drafted in the middle off the QB2 range and not with the idea of him leading you to a fantasy Super Bowl.
RB Ray Rice - Stud (low risk)
It would be fair to classify the all-purpose back's 2012 as ho-hum by his own high standards. It would be more than fair to imagine Rice's 2013 season being anything but, especially in points per reception leagues. He went over 1,100 rush yards and caught at least 61 passes for the fourth straight season, though his totals in both categories represented lows in that span. Blame Joe Flacco taking control of the offense and Bernard Pierce's existence. Nothing will change on either of those fronts, but with uncertainty at the WR2 slot, Rice's roll in the passing game should receive a boost. Let's also note that he has scored 22 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Because Pierce likely receives more carries than he did as a rookie, it is conceivable that Rice looses some touches. Nothing alarming, but enough to push him closer toward the middle of the RB1 pack than atop it.
RB Bernard Pierce - Sleeper (undervalued)
Update (8-13): Pierce suffered a left knee sprain in the Ravens' preseason opener, but the rising second-year runner was on the field for Monday's practice. He is easily one of the top fantasy handcuffs, a potential flex option if he receives 7-10 touches per game and a top-15 RB option if Ray Rice misses time.
Pierce lived up to his rugged reputation and sleeper tag with a rock solid rookie campaign, averaging 4.9 yards and 108 regular season carries. He did even better during the postseason (5.2 ypc), including 103 yards in the wildcard round win over Indianapolis. Obviously Ray Rice remains the lead back, but seeing as Pierce had 22 touches in the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl combined, he could have flex or bye week value in 2013. For now, consider him a high-end handcuff in the R3/4 range.
WR Torrey Smith - Solid/Safe Pick
There is no doubt Torrey Smith rates among the NFL's premier deep threats. His 17.1 career yards per catch average and the numerous highlights of the former University of Maryland star zooming past would-be defenders proves the point. Seeing as quarterback Joe Flacco throws one of the best deep balls in the game, the connection should add to the 15 touchdowns they've generated during Smith's first two seasons. However...Smith has yet to show he's more than just a 9-route runner; last season he caught only 49 of his 110 targets, a rate that must improve for Baltimore now that Anquan Boldin is in San Francisco. Because of his all-or-nothing style, Smith's weekly fantasy production flucuates dramatically week-to-week. Only five times did he total at least 60 receiving yards. Also, wth no viable WR option on the other side, defenses can send even more help toward Smith. Because of the TD and long ball potential, Smith is a potential WR2, but not a steady one unless he shows overall improvement during training camp.
WR Jacoby Jones - Bust (overvalued)
Update (9-7): A source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during Thursday's loss to the Broncos, and he will miss four-to-six weeks. Jones suffered the injury when a teammate,Brynden Trawick, collided with him as he prepared to field a punt. Jones' right knee hyperextended and he didn't return to the game. Already a low-end receiver option at best, Jones can be released in all leagues where he's a pure WR option. For the second straight week, the TD scoring Marlon Brown is a waiver wire option.
Part of our fantasy football minicamp series involved whether Jacoby Jones is equipped to handle the starting spot opposite Torrey Smith now that Anquan Boldin will be catching passes in San Francisco. In a nutshell, no. The speedy Jones has ability and he used it to become a Pro Bowl returner last season, while catching 30 receptions for 406 yards and a touchdown. However, those passing numbers came as Baltimore's third receiver. When last we saw Jones in a starting role, a rather plum assignment opposite Andre Johnson with the Texans, he left everyone wanting more - and eventually had Houston showing him the door. Jones can deep and with Joe Flacco's arm strength, he makes for a compelling threat. For now he's the best bet to become the WR2 and with playing time comes opportunity. Still, he's yet to show he can handle the attention from defenses that comes with a starting role. Expect his name recognitiion to raise his draft value higher than future production. Becomes a touch more interesting in the final rounds, but even then there are other options with more WR4 upside.
WR Deonte Thompson - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update (8-13): Already starving runway model thin at wide receiver, the Ravens took a hit, at least for a little bit, when Thompson suffered a sprained left foot. For now, it is significant enough for Baltimore to sit the sleeper option for Thursday's preseason game against the Falcons. Though he remains in the mix for significant work, sitting out for any significant length of time won't help the inexperienced Thompson salt away his role. He remains an intriguing, late round receiver worth monitoring
Another name to consider for the Ravens WR2/3 competition. Undrafted out of the University of Florida, the 6-foot Thompson made the team last year, though like many a backbencher, showed more potential in preseason than when the games turned real. Well, the latter had more to do with Baltimore having established option ahead of Thompson (who caught five passes for 51 yards) and that he lost his kick returner job to Jacoby Jones, which kept the rookie off the 53-man roster most weeks. Seeing as Jones previously lost an NFL WR2 job, it is conceivable that one of the Ravens sleeper candidates emerges. With his burst and route-running prowess, Thompson is indeed one to watch.
WR Marlon Brown - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update (9-7): A source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during Thursday's loss to the Broncos, and he will miss four-to-six weeks. Jones suffered the injury when a teammate,Brynden Trawick, collided with him as he prepared to field a punt. Jones' right knee hyperextended and he didn't return to the game. Already a low-end receiver option at best, Jones can be released in all leagues where he's a pure WR option. For the second straight week, the TD scoring Brown is a waiver wire option.
Profile: The undrafted wide receiver from Georgia paced the Ravens during preseason with 10 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers alone mean squat, especially when the starters played minimal snaps in those games. The difference here is that this unknown target sports a 6-foot-5 frame made for the red zone - and he actually made the final roster. Also, Baltimore's WR2 spot opposite Torrey Smith remains wide open unless you're one of those that believes Jacoby Jones is the guy (Hint, he's not). Though too risky to use in Week 1, Brown makes for an interesting flyer right now.
WR Brandon Stokley - Low Potential
Once a Raven, always a Raven? Stokley returns where his 14-year career began because he's a professional pass catcher and Baltimore needs more of that. Last season with the Broncos, Stokley hauled in 45 receptions for 544 yards and five touchdowns, Credible numbers considering his limited role, but don't project increased stats just because with the Ravens there is plenty of opportunity. Baltimore lacks a possession option now that Anquan Boldin is with the 49ers and Dennis Pitta is done for the season. Stokley isn't the answer, but he might be a decent option. Decent for the Ravens, not fantasy players. He's only draftable in truly deep leagues until further notice.
WR Tandon Doss - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Based on his first two seasons, there is little reason to project a major impact from Tandon Doss in 2013. In 14 games last season, the former Indiana University star caught only seven passes. So why should fantasy owners pay attention to the 6-foot-2 target this summer? Without Anquan Boldin, the Ravens' No. 2 receiver slot is wide open with Jacoby Jones and Doss the primary contenders, followed by Tommy Streeter. Jones previously flamed out in a similar situation with the Texans and Doss reportedy shined during early workouts. It's doubtful he or any of the options will surpass Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta as Joe Flacco's primary pass targets, but being someone must become the third choice.
WR Tommy Streeter - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
No clear-cut replacement plan stood out when the Ravens shipped Anquan Boldin to the 49ers. Three months before the regular season opener, little has changed for those on the outside looking into the Super Bowl champs situation (though Baltimore hopes their 2012 sixth-rounder can help). The 6-foot-5 Streeter, who flashed legitimate speed at the University of Miami, did not suit up last season due to an ankle ligament injury. The Ravens hope his combination of size and burst can give the offense a boost. One to watch this summer.
TE Ed Dickson - Deep-league Only
Update (8-14): Dickson's own body apparently won't let him take advantage of a good thing: Dennis Pitta's absence. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Tuesday that Dickson's hamstring injury could keep him out for at least the regular season opener. Baltimore recently signed veterans Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark. Perhaps that's an indication of the team's concern for Dickson. At this point, none of the three is draftable.
Update (7-27): Dennis Pitta suffered a dislocated hip during practice, ending the top-10 tight end's season. Obviously a huge blow for the Ravens, but an even bigger one for fantasy players considering the limited TE1 options. Dickson, who caught 54 passes in 2011, now takes over in Baltimore and moves into the middle of the TE2 range in part due minimal options at the position. Could become an interesting option considering Ravens WR2 job remains unsettled, meaning second pass receiver behind Torrey Smith remains undetermined.
Profile: After hauling in 54 receptions during the 2011 campaign, Ed Dickson was considered the Ravens' fantasy TE to own by many. Others talked up Dennis Pitta, a more natural pass-catcher. Well, Pitta indeed became the more productive option as Dickson finished with 21 catches for 225 yards. Heading into the upcoming season, Pitta is a top-10 fantasy option, while his tag-team partner is not a draftable option in standard leagues. However, Dickson is the better all-around TE option, sources say he's looked impressive during spring workouts and he should receive plenty of snaps considering the Ravens' issues at WR2. Should Pitta miss any games, Dickson could be a top-15 option, but a waiver wire play until then.
TE Dallas Clark - Deep-league Only
Dennis Pitta's season-ending injury and Ed Dickson's hamstring strain have the Ravens bringing in some old school tight ends. First came 33-year-old Visanthe Shiancoe, whose best days are way in the past. Then came ex-Colt Dallas Clark, who caught 47 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns for the Colts last season. Clark is nowhere near his previous Pro Bowl level and even if he became a starter, expectations are waiver wire low. However, since he's more receiver than blocker and we know the Ravens are seeking a possession target with no Pitta or Anquan Boldin, it is possible Clark gets a decent number of snaps. That is until Dickson returns. That is if he even makes the roster.
PK Justin Tucker - Solid/Safe Pick
As far as kickers go, the former Texas Longhorn was a revelation as a rookie for the Super Bowl champions. Tucker combined accuracy (30 for 33 field goal attempts), potency (seventh in points among NFL kickers), booming (made four of his tries from 50 and beyond) and clutch kicking (perfect on two attempts in the Super Bowl). We can nitpick and say without the drive-sustaining talents of Anquan Boldin, perhaps the Ravens offense stalls a touch more, but there is no reason to imagine Tucker cannot repeat his performance. Honestly, not sure there is more to add other than draft Tucker with confidence and plan starting him most if not all weeks.
Baltimore Defense - Quality Backup
No Ray Lewis, no Ed Reed. Who are these guys? That's going to be a question for many casual fantasy players come draft prep time and a reasonable one considering those two future Hall of Famers (well, certainly Lewis is) defined the ball-hawking, turnover-generating unit for years. Without them, the Ravens still have studs (most notably pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who will receive help on the outside from former Bronco Elvis Dumerville). Nose tackle Haloti Ngata anchors the run defense, which slipped to 20th in the NFL last season. Baltimore drafted Florida safety Matt Elam to replace Reed and has a crew of capable veterans in the secondary including Ladarius Webb. Based on team name recognition, the Ravens likely will be drafted too high by some unknowing player, but even knowledgeable owners can consider Baltimore in the 12-14 range depending on league scoring systems.